Embedded within its hilltop site, Rose Bay House by Studio Johnston is defined by a collection of interior and exterior spaces that open up to the Sydney Harbour.
Located in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, Rose Bay House has been conceived to embrace 180-degree views across the Harbour while remaining considerate of not obstructing those same views for neighbours. From the street, the home presents as an unobtrusive single-level home. At the same time, behind its facade, a cascading architectural language leverages its signature site. Here, Studio Johnston have carved out a substantial family home with five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a parent’s retreat, a large kitchen, multiple entertaining areas, a swimming pool, a double garage, and a lift.
In response to a client brief that called for a large home of discrete spaces for children and adults, Studio Johnston has realised a generously scaled collection of gathering spaces across three floors arranged around a large central courtyard. This walled and paved courtyard delivers an extensive outdoor area perfectly sheltered from harsh westerly sun and winds. It also connects the living room, dining and kitchen on the middle level, mediating between the more exposed westerly terrace that takes in the breathtaking Harbour view. “In form and footprint, the house is a defensive response to its exposed site,” Studio Johnston architect and director Conrad Johnston says.
Guided by an exploration of the site’s topography, Rose Bay House has evolved in response to its context. Rooms are oriented to take in sweeping views and pockets of functional spaces are carved out to define living patterns that are both pragmatic and optimistic.
A similar balance has been struck with construction materials. Stone is a prominent feature, as seen in the exterior limestone bricks – quarried, individually hand-cut, and laid by a stonemason – and the coral-stone interior tiling through the public spaces. “Limestone is a soft stone and more uniform in colour than the sandstone into which the house is carved, so it makes a nice punctuation,” Conrad Johnston says. “And the quality of light on limestone is very different to its effect on a normal clay brick. It almost shimmers.” A complementary curation of textures and finishes continue the languid palette (accented in moments by bold insertions of soft brown, clay and burgundy) to subtly draw attention to tactile surface details.
In line with Studio Johnston’s residential design approach, strong sustainability measures have also been implemented, including rooftop solar power, a sizeable rainwater tank below ground, low-E glazing throughout and heat-mitigating roof gardens.
Rose Bay House delivers a home befitting for large gatherings while retaining a sense of domesticity and intimacy. Infused with sunlight, water and briny westerly winds, the home demonstrates an accord between architecture and the elements, establishing reconciliation between the two.